• TheMadFool
    2.4k
    People seem to regard the human condition of self-awareness as invaluable. By that I mean a sense of identity, derived from either pure selfishness or through relationships with other human beings or the world itself, is very important for a healthy life.

    What I've noticed is that ability (if I may say so) to realize that I exist, I feel, I did this, I want this, etc. (Buddhists would call this ego I guess) isn't really all that great as made out to be.

    There are two primary emotions that humans really care about - joy and sorrow.

    The feeling of joy doesn't require self-awareness. We can be happy just as the lower animals - eating, sleeping, playing, mating. They lack a fully developed sense of self-awareness, right? Yet they can experience joy through many activities I mentioned above.

    However, feeling sorrow to its greatest extent requires a sense of self-awareness. I'm hurting, I'm dying, I'm losing, etc. are all expressions of self-awareness. Situations where the self is deprived of what it seeks/desires are inevitable causes of pain.

    Philosophers should agree with me because they seek knowledge and that only requires the application of logic and some means of acquiring data. This can be done easily without the presence of self-awareness. Computers can do it and they don't have consciousness.

    The highest form of good - wisdom and knowledge - can be achieved without self-awareness. And pain and suffering are intricately linked to self-awareness.

    Therefore self-awareness is more a curse than a boon.

    Your thoughts...
  • unenlightened
    2.7k
    Neither. I see it rather like being a teenager: a fucked up phase one has to get through on the way from sensible childhood to sensible adulthood. But perhaps that's just me. :nerd:
  • BlueBanana
    875
    They lack a fully developed sense of self-awareness, right? Yet they can experience joy through many activities I mentioned above.TheMadFool

    However, feeling sorrow to its greatest extent requires a sense of self-awareness. I'm hurting, I'm dying, I'm losing, etc. are all expressions of self-awareness.TheMadFool

    I could agree with either that self-awareness isn't required for neither joy nor sorrow, or that non-human animals have enough self-awareness to be capable of both feelings. Either way, I do think animals certainly are capable of feeling sorrow as well.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    Why? ''I'', what it stands for (self-identity), is more closer to pain than it is to joy. If one is to believe Buddhism, and it's a very well-reasoned religion, it is the ego that is the source of suffering.

    I could agree with either that self-awareness isn't required for neither joy nor sorrow, or that non-human animals have enough self-awareness to be capable of both feelings. Either way, I do think animals certainly are capable of feeling sorrow as wellBlueBanana

    Can you read above?
  • BlueBanana
    875
    So why isn't self-awareness needed for joy then? I'm eating, I'm relaxed, I'm in the company of my loved ones are all expressions of self-awareness just as much as
    I'm hurting, I'm dying, I'm losing, etc.TheMadFool

    I don't, however, think of the part of self-awareness as relevant. Sentience is what is needed for feeling any emotions or feelings, and self-awareness happens to be many of the properties that almost by default rise from it. "I feel" is a description of what one is feeling, for feeling of which the understanding of I is not needed.

    What certainly is not needed for any emotion is the amount of self-awareness that humans have. What you called "lower animals" are almost all capable of feeling pain and many even the more complicated negative emotions.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    @Wayfarer

    From a Buddhist perspective the ego/self is the ultimate cause of suffering. Nirvana is literally the realization that there's no self (anatta); this realization is considered a liberation from samsara (cycle of rebirth and suffering).

    In addition, from a moral perspective, altruism (the highest good) is to put others before you. So, people see value in diminishing the role of the self/ego in ethics.

    Selfishness is considered evil and what is selfishness but your ego in full bloom?
  • unenlightened
    2.7k
    it is the ego that is the source of suffering.TheMadFool

    Can I unpack this just a little? Let's say that ego is a centre of identification. I am... a philosopher, a husband, a Scotsman, a fine fellow, etc. More importantly, there is an identification through time, of joy and pain remembered, and current, and imagined in the future. So we can distinguish pain, as being present or absent, from suffering, as being a thread through time of moments of pain remembered, and foreseen. (I am currently suffering from a dentist appointment tomorrow, associated with remembered childhood dentist trauma.)

    Thus more precisely, ego makes suffering from pain. One could also say that it makes pleasure from joy, but the language is more ambiguous here. So what I am suggesting is that animals and the enlightened have pain and joy from time to time, but not pleasure and suffering which are the stuff of egos. the stuff of identification.
  • BlueBanana
    875
    From a Buddhist perspective the ego/self is the ultimate cause of suffering.TheMadFool

    Maybe so, but it's also the cause of joy and well-being, the positive feelings, which also with the negative feelings cause and allow the existence of each other. And all that is so goddamn worth it for the cheap price of the existence of suffering.

    In addition, from a moral perspective, altruism (the highest good) is to put others before you. So, people see value in diminishing the role of the self/ego in ethics.TheMadFool

    Why is it that when looking at the existence of self and consciousness and their consequences, the focus is entirely on suffering, but in ethics, it's on the positive feelings? An altruistic person would also choose suffering on themselves over other people, something which requires highlighting the role of ego and the self.

    Nirvana is literally the realization that there's no self (anatta); this realization is considered a liberation from samsara (cycle of rebirth and suffering).TheMadFool

    If there's no self, the realization of whom is it that who doesn't exist? :wink:

    Just kidding. On a more serious note, though, it's a cycle of happiness as well.

    Buddhism, while deep, just comes across as a tad pessimistic. I, for one, enjoy my time here.

    Oh, relevant: existentialcomics.com/comic/231
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    From a Buddhist perspective the ego/self is the ultimate cause of suffering. Nirvana is literally the realization that there's no self (anatta); this realization is considered a liberation from samsara (cycle of rebirth and suffering).TheMadFool

    That's not exactly correct, and with such big statements, exactness is called for. Certainly, Nirvana is, among other things, the abandonment of self. But what would that mean, actually? If 'the ego' were abandoned, then who is going to be around to notice? (Big question, that.)

    I think the Buddhist view is actually an understanding of how consciousness or the mind operates in terms of distorted sense of self-identity and self-importance. But that's not 'self-awareness'. I think in Buddhist theory, self-awareness is actually primary. There's a lot of emphasis in mindfulness meditation of being aware of the action of thought, without necessarily trying to interfere with it or direct it. 'Just notice the thought, and return to the breath', is the customary instruction. And that *is* self-awareness.

    I think what your OP is about, is not self-awareness, but self-consciousness, thought thinking about itself, and the self about itself. 'What will become of me? Will I be OK?'

    So when you say:

    The highest form of good - wisdom and knowledge - can be achieved without self-awareness. And pain and suffering are intricately linked to self-awareness.TheMadFool

    What you mean is: without self-consciousness, or without self-centredness. It ain't 'self-awareness' that you're talking about. Self awareness is a good thing, and necessary.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.2k
    I got more than half way through this before becoming self-aware that it might be going a bit too far. Shakespeare has been poking and rattling around in my head lately (I'm on a quest to capture all 151 poké literary skills) and I got pot committed before noticing. Hopefully it suffices as an address of the OP:



    To see, or not to see: that is the question:
    Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous action,
    Or to take arms against a sea of foibles,
    And by reflecting end them? To change: to grow;
    A new; and by grow to say we begin
    The heart-throbs and the thousand natural jaunts
    That flesh is heir to, ‘tis a conflagration
    Devoutly to be wish’d. To change, to grow;
    To grow: perchance to reach: ay, there’s the stub;
    For in that growth of change what heights may come
    When we have re-shuffled this mortal coil,
    Must give us un-pause: there’s self-respect
    That makes profanity of so long strife;
    For who would mourn the quips of timelessness,
    The selfish wrong, the prideful man's conceit,
    The pangs of jealous love, the law’s decay,
    The insolence of youth and the burns
    That patient stagnation of the worthy takes,
    When he himself might his quietus break
    With a bare-assed glance? who would fartels bear,
    To shunt and regret under weary strife,
    But that the dread of something after growth,
    The discover’d identity from whose bourn
    No inquisitor returns, puzzles the still
    And makes us rather bear those ills we have
    Than climb to others that we know not of?
    Thus incontinence makes blowhards of us all;
    And thus the future hue of resolution
    Is sicklied o’er with the pale lack of thought,
    And achievements of great pith and moment
    With this regard their currents run dry,
    And lose the name of fortune.—Shield you now,
    The wise Falstaff!—Seer, in thy horizons
    Be all my sins forgotten.
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    On the comparison of humans with animals, I'm not sure animals are capable of joy and sorrow. They are perhaps capable of feeling pleasure, pain and other forms of comfort/discomfort, and feelings of comfort and discomfort may be at the base of joy and sorrow, but joy and sorrow are much more sophisticated notions than pleasure and pain, and perhaps even to feel joy and sorrow requires self-awareness.
    I remember reading JS Mill (a long time ago) saying that it was better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied and I just thought that the idea of a satisfied pig was truly bizarre : a well fed pig makes perfect sense, of course, but asatisifed pig, what the hell is that supposed to be?
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    Thus more precisely, ego makes suffering from pain. One could also say that it makes pleasure from joy, but the language is more ambiguous here. So what I am suggesting is that animals and the enlightened have pain and joy from time to time, but not pleasure and suffering which are the stuff of egos. the stuff of identificationunenlightened

    Well thought and well said. Thanks. Please read below.



    I think I've made a mistake. It isn't self-awareness that is the cause of suffering but a misunderstanding of truth or of reality that is the cause of suffering.

    A wise and happy sage knows the truth of this world and adapts his ego to it and is content.

    A common man lacks wisdom and his ego suffers from this flaw.

    Do you agree?
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    I don't know. I do know that I have met people who are unhappy and frustrated because the world does not meet their expectations of it, so I suppose lowering their expectations might help them. Is that what you are getting at?
  • BlueBanana
    875
    Don't get me wrong, I totally agree that self-awareness (or I'd maybe rather say sentience) causes suffering, but it's just worth it.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    it's just worth it.BlueBanana

    Yes. I agree. I guess my life ain't bad. I wonder how the sick and poor feel about it though.
  • BlueBanana
    875
    Yeah, I did think of that too, but even they aren't (mostly) killing themselves. It's all about perspective, sucks from our point of view to be sure.

    Speaking of perspective, I was reminded of that one old thread on antinatalism. Both in that topic and this one I think what one considers to be the norm or the basic state of existence and what generalizations one draws out of existence is the major difference. I believe the people who have more suffering than happiness in their life are in minority and the average quality of life is above that.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.2k
    I think I've made a mistake. It isn't self-awareness that is the cause of suffering but a misunderstanding of truth or of reality that is the cause of suffering.TheMadFool

    :meh: It's a good thing I charge per soliloquy!

    A wise and happy sage knows the truth of this world and adapts his ego to it and is content.

    A common man lacks wisdom and his ego suffers from this flaw.
    TheMadFool

    We only have so much control over our own egos, but 'lacking wisdom' and misunderstanding does tend to permit the rise of conflict.

    And conflict can find even the wisest of seers. Take Leo Tolstoy as example: wise, accomplished, loved, self-loved, pampered and served. His wisdom for a time made him too clever for Jesus, and the result was suffering through an existential crisis. He specifically remarked how his commoner servants had no existential qualms with their lot in life and no crippling doubt about the hereafter.

    In the end he fled from that precipice of wisdom, that cliff of knowledge, and back into his perched nest of familiar comfort. Was his ego too immature to drive or were his wings of wisdom too weak to keep him aloft? The humility and uncertainty that some wisdom can bring requires a certain quality to endure, something that might not be suitable for everyone; perhaps nothing is more frightening than knowledge.

    I would agree that awareness of the world yields wisdom, and also that we can eventually adapt our egos to our worldviews, but then should not an unwise man have an unwise ego? Indeed they should. If you're gonna be dumb you gotta be "tough". If self-satisfaction is our aim then we should be adapting our egos to fit our perceptions. If it's wisdom then we should be adapting our perceptions to fit reality. Therefore the ego must suit the knowledge. It must progress as increased understanding demands greater confidence to navigate more challenging terrain while avoiding recklessness.

    Too much ego and not enough wisdom and you'll crash on the rocks in pretentious style. Too much wisdom and not enough ego and you might fail to launch entirely. There's also something to be said about having too large an ego regardless of one's wisdom. An average egotist is just a douche, but a highly intelligent egotist has the makings of a demagogue and tyrant.

    Ideally we stay in that narrow zone where we have the confidence necessary to challenge ourselves to improve but not the conceit to drown ourselves.
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    A wise and happy sage knows the truth of this world and adapts his ego to it and is content.

    A common man lacks wisdom and his ego suffers from this flaw.
    TheMadFool

    :ok:
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k


    Thanks for your replies. Just wondering about something else. I heard someone say ''Blessed are those who suffer.''.

    I don't know how to make sense of that in the context of my OP.
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    That’s JC, who said that. ‘Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted’. [Matt 5].

    The inner interpretation - they’re ‘blessed’ because they are confronting life’s suffering. IN Buddhist terms, they’re confronting dukkha which will in turn lead them to disengagement, dispassion, nirodha, cessation. They will be comforted by ‘realising the kingdom of heaven lies within’ and by turning away from the illusory comforts of worldliness (i.e. where 'moth and rust corrupts'.)

    The mainstream interpretation is that they will be comforted because when they die, if they’re good believers, they will be re-born in Heaven.

    //ps// have a read of this wikipedia entry on higher consciousness. Rather a quirky entry, but it does contextualise the idea in terms of philosophy, but definitely not today's mainstream academic philosophy, which has no interest in anything of the kind.

    It is a perennial philosophical reflection that if one looks deeply enough into oneself, one will discover not only one’s own essence, but also the essence of the universe. For as one is a part of the universe as is everything else, the basic energies of the universe flow through oneself, as they flow through everything else. For that reason it is thought that one can come into contact with the nature of the universe if one comes into substantial contact with one’s ultimate inner being. — SEP entry on Schopenhauer

    I would actually question the use of 'basic energies' in the above. What is fundamental is being-knowing (cit) which is not an 'energy' but an intelligence, never an object of perception but always 'what is knowing'.
  • gurugeorge
    517
    Pain and suffering aren't intrinsically linked to self-awareness - or at least, to the extent that they are, they're linked to self awareness at a level of self-awareness way below the human cognitive level - at a level that we share with animals. Buddha would have said that animals feel joy and suffer, and I think most people would agree, certainly re. the "higher mammals."

    The only difference with the more sophisticated form of self-reflection that we have is that the horror of it all becomes more apparent, because we understand it in more articulated detail. The cow to the slaughter perhaps senses something amiss, feels pain and fear, and feels the bludgeon. The human to the slaughter feels all that, but also understands what the whole thing is - a monstrous Moloch.

    IOW, Buddha's "Desire," Spinoza's "Conatus," Schopenhauer's "Will," operate at the level of striving, surviving life in general, they're not specifically to do with the possession of our kind of reflective cognitive apparatus. Everything acts to protect itself and enhance its own life, and to that end cleaves to some things and avoids other things. I suppose this is either a "boo" or "hooray" fact, depending on one's mood. But it is what it is.

    Incidentally, this is also why Buddhism is difficult and takes a while - you're not just trying to get a calm mind and a clear perception of reality, but you're trying to loosen up a very deep-seated urge or tendency that exists at the animal level too (if you don't do that, your insight is unstable, like a candle in the wind, flickering and going out).

    Re. your last point: I'm not sure wisdom and knowledge can be achieved without self-awareness - after all, self-awareness is a form of knowledge, so there'd be a gap.
  • Gord
    24
    I think you have it backwards mate. I see pain and suffering as a result of a lack of self awareness. Looking back on my life during the times that i suffered it was a result of situations that i did not yet wield the power to control or comprehend. For exampe i had a coworker who was a good friend of my and i was pretty close to, to an extent. He took his own life 2 years after i met him and what caused me so much pain was that i foolishly took the blame partly upon myself without really considering him or his circumstances. I think without self awareness and an ability to think about things abstractly with a certain amount of detatchment, humans do this by default. Thinking back to it now i realize i had nothing to do with his choice ultimatly. Yes i probably contributed to his suffering by declining to hang out with him the few times he asked, but ultimatly each choice a human makes is in that humans hands

    Regarding knowledge and wisdom. These can ONLY be attained through self awareness. Wisdom comes from experience and i would say knowledge comes from inquiry and experimentation. I do think computers can do this to an extent, but ask yourself this; who created computers?
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